Look For Defense To Be Tide Trait

Tenacious defense has been the trademark of Anthony Grant teams. Alabama has tormented opponents the previous three seasons holding them to a shade under 60 ppg. The 2012-13 Tide surrendered a paltry 58.4 ppg, ranking 17th nationally. The stingy trend should continue even though solid stopper 6-4, 225 pound fifth-year senior reserve swingman Andrew Steele has graduated.

Two-time Barton Community College JC All-American transfer, Algie Key, a 6-4, 195 pound combo guard, is a candidate to fill that role.

Two roster additions should bolster the interior defense. Alabama welcomes back 7-1, 265 pound medical redshirt junior center Carl Engström to strengthen the frontcourt. He has recovered from a 2012 season ending knee injury against Cincinnati. A promising F/C prospect is 6-10, 240 pound Jimmie Taylor (Greensboro High School). The true freshman with a 7-7 wingspan has a reputation as a premiere shot-blocker.

Offensive questions abound for the team tied for 276th nationally out of 345 teams in scoring (63.0 ppg) last season.

Only two of the three double-digit scorers return – First Team All-SEC selection Trevor Releford and Tide's leading rebounder Rodney Cooper (4.5 rpg). The 6-0, 190 pound senior point guard and the 6-6, 215 pound junior swingman averaged 14.9 ppg and 10.2 ppg respectively for the Tide. The third, Trevor Lacey, a 6-3 215 pound junior guard (11.3 ppg), transferred to North Carolina State.

All-SEC Defensive Team member Releford, the program's all-time steals leader (194), topped Alabama in scoring, steals (70), three-point field-goal% (.407) and free-throw shooting % (.824) in 2012-13. A significant 13% jump in three-point field-goal% from 27% the previous two seasons contributed to him recording a team leading 28 double-figure scoring games.

Other key returning contributors are juniors, Levi Randolph, a 6-5, 200 pound swingman, 6-8, 245 pound power forward Nick Jacobs and redshirt sophomore 6-1, 205 guard Retin Obasohan.

The hustling Randolph (8.1 ppg and 4.2 rpg) is a defensive gem and showed signs of offensive improvement. He suffered a knee injury during a Saturday afternoon practice and will be sidelined for several weeks. Coach Anthony Grant said at SEC Media Days Thursday that Randolph would not need surgery.

Jacobs (7.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg) shed 25-30 pounds in a dedicated effort to increase his mobility. Obasohan (3.9 ppg) was a spark off the bench averaging 6.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg and 1.1 steals in the last 12 games.

Potential newcomers expected to generate offensive firepower include, Key (Decatur, GA) and Shannon Hale (The Christ School, NC), a 6-8, 220 pound forward. The exceptional penetrator and mid-range pull up jump shooter averaged 18.2 ppg in his junior college career. Hale, originally from Johnson City, TN, possesses an outstanding touch from the perimeter and excellent post moves along with the capability to dribble drive from the wing.

Alabama compiled a 23-13 (SEC 12-6) record ending the season with a 58-57 home loss to Maryland in the third round of the National Invitational Tournament. Anthony Grant returns for a fifth season seeking a second appearance in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

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